Why you should get an MBA

Originally Posted on 4/15/2010 

I break the Business analysis for BI consultants series for a post that has been inspired by a discussion on the well known Joel on Software forum. This post is a slightly developed version of my reply to the thread titled: Why you should unlearn your MBA The thread starts recalling a David Heineimeier Hansson speech at Stanford University. Being the father of Ruby on Rails and 37 Signals, DHH makes a point in telling that what you learn from a business school is no use in creating a startup, at least a technology startup. Actually, it may be harmful; so it is better to unlearn it. Along these lines, Guy Kawasaki, the famous venture capitalist and internet marketer, gives a speech on how only the real world experience can give the ability to manage; so attending a management school is a waste of otherwise irreplaceable time. I know that DHH and GK are well respected and I would normally listen carefully to their opinions. Those two guys really built something and they deserve a lot of respect when talking about technology business. Actually I see their points and I admit that there's an internal logic. BUT, in my opinion, this thing that getting an MBA is useless is a bad mistake.

Better, all that chatter about you not using what you learn or that you can't learn things on books is plainly BULLSHIT. I explain why.

1) Culture is not a tool, culture sharpens you perception of the world, culture creates a better you. So do not ask if a notion can be applied to your job or not, just learn it for the time you'll use it to understand a deeper layer of truth.

2) The amount of logical and abstract thinking required to fully grasp some of the ideas you'll learn at school is so high to improve your applied thought. I'm an aerospace engineer, I'm happy of having studied the turbulent boundary layer; it does not have anything to do with my current job, but it helps me in being better at it. I do not regret a minute of the days and nights spent on strange mathematics because they gave me the ability to extract the meaningful data from a pile of rubble.

3) It's not true that an MBA is useless in a small IT consulting firm, because the best way to relate with business line managers is talking the same language. The raw material of their decisions is often something explained at school.

4) It's not true that an MBA is useless in a small software shop either, because, if you target the B2B market, only the consultancy large vision gives you the exact feeling of how a software should be made. I started a company doing a piece of software that I wish I had in my projects.

5) If you are successful, your company will not stay small forever. If you do not necessarily need an MBA to run a small shop, that kind of knowledge becomes more and more important as your company grows. Financials, control or investments are not subjects where common sense provides a guidance good enough.

I could go on telling war stories about the damage ignorant entrepreneurs cause to companies, but I think this post is already long enough. So, if you chose not to get an MBA, make sure you'll learn the same things another way, but never stop learning about business!


# 1

If you want to run a SaaS company, you might as well get an MBA, because SaaS is just like the CPG companies that MBAs are trained to run.

If you want to run a company doing disruptive things, then an MBA would be the wrong way to go. 

Yes, the implications are intentional.

From  David Locke  (submitted  4/15/2010 @ 01:31:31)

# 2

This time I do not agree, David. Getting an MBA gives you the background for doing something disruptive.
Picasso was a good painter before doing disruptive art.

From  Stray__Cat  (submitted  4/15/2010 @ 01:46:18)

# 3

augusto, glad you are holding your ground!...but boy have the Harvard\Standford Goldman MBA's failed us since 2008...hope the MIT quants are happy that they shorted us back to the stone age...have to say the jury is till out for me on this DHH is the new breed to be sure...also, not sure if reading your stuff counts toward my 2 hr promise! 

From  greg  (submitted  4/18/2010 @ 18:48:44)

# 4

An MBA is not a substitute for intellectual honesty. If the Economists as whole did a bad job about finance, this does not mean that the instruments they invented to control companies are totally flawed!

From  Stray__Cat  (submitted  4/19/2010 @ 16:46:12)